After a year of anticipation, the next chapter in the Star Wars saga has arrived. But unlike The Force Awakens, this one takes us back in time, before Luke Skywalker made his mark on the universe. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story takes place in between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, but even more importantly, it’s the first Star Wars movie to focus on characters outside of the Skywalker lineage.
Earlier this week, members of the press attended screenings to see the movie days before launch, and on Tuesday, the embargo lifted on early reviews. So what do critics think of Rogue One?
Our sister site Variety had plenty of criticisms for the film, but focused on its strengths:
“Not only does “Rogue One” overlap ever so slightly with “A New Hope,” but it takes that blockbuster’s biggest weakness — that a small one-man fighter can blow up a battlestation the size of a class-four moon — and actually turns this egregious design flaw into an asset. Now we know why the Death Star has an Achilles’ heel and how that information fell into Princess Leia’s hands. Plus (and here’s the aspect that should send longtime “Star Wars” fans into ecstatic orbit), director Gareth Edwards has finally made the first “Star Wars” movie for grown-ups.”
The New York Times was far more critical, knocking the plot and the dialogue:
“All the pieces are there, in other words, like Lego figures in a box. The problem is that the filmmakers haven’t really bothered to think of anything very interesting to do with them. A couple of 9-year-olds on a screen-free rainy afternoon would come up with better adventures, and probably also better dialogue. Plots and subplots are handled with clumsy expediency, and themes that might connect this movie with the larger Lucasfilm mythos aren’t allowed to develop.”
The Verge unflatteringly compared Rogue One to its predecessor, The Force Awakens:
“Rogue One is its own animal, a modern action film with many of the same problems in character and pacing that we see in so many otherfranchise movies. It’s a type of tentpole film that we’ve grown accustomed to, the kind that made the delightful banter and optimistic thrills of The Force Awakens feel like such a refreshing departure.”
USA Today claims that the exciting third act saves what could have been a disappointing film:
“Still, Edwards has a great handle on what makes Star Wars-ready visual spectacle. He crafts one of the saga’s best space battles in the superb, film-saving third act and takes the action to land for realistic ground-and-pound warfare.
Fortunately, even an underwhelming Star Wars is a pretty decent Star Wars, but Rogue One misses a real chance to turn the familiar into something remarkable.”
Finally, Rolling Stone steps in with the most ebullient reaction of the bunch:
“It’s no lie that some of the interactions get lost under the weight of front-loaded exposition. But with the smashing Jones giving us a female warrior to rank with the great ones and a cast that knows how to keep it real even in a sci-fi fantasy, Rogue One proves itself a Star Wars story worth telling. It’s hard not to get choked up with that blind monk when he chants, “I’m with the Force and the Force is with me.” Who’d want it any other way?”
If you’re looking for the next great Star Wars movie, it sounds like you might be underwhelmed by Rogue One. But if a solid action flick set in a familiar universe is all you need, it should do the trick.